Your Birth Story, Part 4: Afterbirth. Reflections.
(Part one is here)
And this, dear daughter, is where the part of your birth story that’s addressed to you ends: “It was the best day of our lives for your Daddy and me, although you’re even more fun to be with now, six years later.”
But, dear readers, the story wouldn’t be complete without the “boring grown-up stuff.” Readers, you know how the first chapter ends and you understand that parenting is complicated. There’s no way for me to experience the story without reflecting on the monstrous loss that was to follow.
Gavin was diagnosed with a stage 4 cancer before this child could stand: at seven months. That shock and stress, the barbaric surgeries, the chemicals, the invisible and then precipitous decline, and his departure are intermingled with all my experiences of parenting her from first crawl, to walking, learning to speak, far into weaning and potty training.
So I wonder, how would the day of your birth have felt if we had known what was brewing, or how things would turn out?
That thirty months later, my husband of nine years, my partner for fourteen, would be gone, leaving me with his child, alone?
That he’d welcome our girl onto the planet only to leave it himself?
That likely, as he witnessed her crowning, his body was home to a cancer that was bound and determined to spread everywhere, destroying everything, top to bottom, as he walked and breathed?
Because the tumor, in November, was 14 cm long. For his cancer, it had to have been there a while.
Would we have felt differently? Would we have made different decisions?
Of course not, we’d both have said. Not from the time of her birth, or from any time in the pregnancy. Getting to that point was the victory in what we’d hoped was the one and only great fight of our lives.
But what if we’d known before we conceived her? That question, no one asked, thank God. We wouldn’t have answered. But now, I wonder.
In the shock after diagnosis, we said several times, Thank God she’s here, because we never would have had the strength to go through fertility treatment once the cancer showed up. Our cups ran over with that cancer gratitude.
Sugar, little one, you were the best thing that ever happened to us. I hate to say that the cancer was the worst thing and point out that it had surely already arrived. I hate to put you opposite the Beast. But the cancer and the child were so close. It’s hard not to draw a line between them, to pose them as two ingredients in a crazy, non-returnable gift basket.
A year later, in the heart of the battle, I suggested we have another child. Our girl was learning so much, to speak, catch, run. She brought us so much joy, redeemed every minute, gave us an excuse to go on. He shook his head, sadly, shrugging away discussion.
So I think this would have been another situation where we disagreed. Another one where we couldn’t talk about it, where there was no chance of reconciliation, just the sure knowledge that the distance between us was growing and, one day soon, it would span the worlds.
TO BE CONTINUED
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